At the end of last year, my little sister left the relative safety of primary school. Now, she’s venturing into the scary territory of our local public high school. At the tender age of eleven, I wonder if she’s really up to the challenge. It’s not so long since I left high school myself. So I’m very aware of all the opposition she’s going to face at school as a Christian.
Wherever we go as Christians, we face opposition. It’s what we expect. In a public high school, as in all parts of society, Christianity will sometimes be ridiculed. But normally it’ll be pointedly ignored and squashed.
It’s hard, being a Christian in a public high school. There are so many challenges to face on a day-by-day basis. But in God’s wisdom, it’s also a wonderful opportunity that brings glory to Him! This article will help you consider some of the challenges your children will face at school, and ways you can support them to grow through these challenges.
Perhaps the most obvious form of opposition that Christian students face takes place in the classroom. This will be different in different classes. In Science, for example, Christians may get laughed at for holding to an ancient, pre-scientific belief system. In Health, by contrast, the Christian value system (particularly in relation to sex and marriage) may be written off as unrealistic and antiquated. Subtle forms of opposition may also be present in other classes.
But the challenges faced by Christian students are not just inside the classroom. I remember one time when my school’s SRC held a ‘sexual orientation awareness week’. They had various events expressing acceptance of queer students. For me as a Christian, the entire atmosphere was very tense. Although no one said it in so many words, I felt I was being told, “we dare you to disagree with us and display your intolerance.” There was no room to respectfully hold a different opinion to the ‘correct’ one.
And on the social side, Christian students feel different to their peers. And it’s hard to be different! There’s a really strong temptation to be a chameleon Christian – to blend in with school friends during the week, and with church friends on Sundays and Friday nights.
As humans, we tend to shy away from challenges and trials like these. But the same challenges we might be tempted to avoid also give us many wonderful opportunities that bring glory to God.
In Ephesians chapter six, Paul talks about the challenges we face as being a spiritual battle. And he exhorts us to stand firm spiritually. Learning to stand firm against opposition in high school is a great chance for Christian students to grow in maturity. And it gives them the opportunity to take responsibility for their own faith – through personal prayer and Bible reading.
As Christians, we are also called to glorify God by being different from the world around us. Peter exhorts us to “live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12). In a public high school, when everyone around is overtly non-Christian, a Christian will stand out as different in a way that brings glory to God.
Another opportunity for Christian students in public high schools is the chance to meet together and encourage one another as they strive to be different. ISCF groups provide great chances for Christian students to share in fellowship, and be strengthened in their faith together.
Finally, of course, we glorify God by speaking of His goodness and grace to those around us. One of the great things about your child being at a public high school, surrounded by non-Christians, is that they’re guaranteed to have lots of non-Christian friends with whom they can share the gospel. What a wonderful opportunity!
In the end, this journey is your child’s journey. It’s not a journey that you can take for them. The best you can do for your child is to equip them well for the journey. Here are a few practical ideas:
- Provide your children with a chance to have fellowship with other Christians their age. Do everything you can to help them to get to church and/or youth group each week. They need friends who are living the same struggle as they are, so they can share in that growth process together.
- Encourage your children to be taking responsibility for their personal growth in godliness. They need to be spending time in the Bible and in prayer. Ultimately, this is their spiritual battle – not their parents’. Ephesians six gives some great guidelines for your children on how to engage in spiritual battle
- Equip your children to defend their faith. Help them become informed so they can talk about the ‘big’ topics for high schoolers – things like marriage equality, the interaction of religion and science, attitudes to sex, etc.
- Keep them firmly grounded in the gospel of grace. As a parent, it’s still your job to be witnessing to your children and teaching them the gospel. And you don’t move on from that to bigger and better things. The gospel remains your foundation, and your children’s foundation.
- Finally, pray! There is no greater weapon that God has given us for such spiritual battles. Pray for your children, keep abreast of the challenges they’re facing. Ask God to grow them through those challenges and be their support amidst their struggles.